A/N: First of all, I'm so sorry for the long wait for this final chapter! If you follow me on Tumblr, you know why it was delayed.
This thing took forever to edit... It's nineteen pages. NINETEEN PAGES! I hope you enjoy!
One year later
Padme smiled and quietly thanked the teenaged barista behind the counter, shoving the small handful of change into her wallet and dropping it deep into her purse. The queue behind her moved up like clockwork to order their own drinks as she moved over toward the small waiting area. She shouldn't be here really but she'd gotten a terrible sleep last night which had, of course, made her sleep in a little late today and now she was twenty minutes behind schedule. Still, the call of caffeine was too strong.
While she waited, Padme rooted through her purse for her phone, silently cursing herself for carrying around so much garbage. She really didn't need two perfumes, a diary, extra t-shirt, make up bag and her wallet. And that was only the things she could see right away. Finally, just as she was tempted to simply tip the contents of the leather bag out onto the nearest table to find it, the device lit up and began to vibrate.
She grabbed it and accepted the call. "Bail, hi! I'm just grabbing some coffee and I'll be there in," Padme winced as she glanced at her watch. She really was late, "thirty minutes?"
Bail's sigh was audible down the phone. "Padme, the meeting starts in twenty minutes…"
"I know, I know… You're more than capable of starting things along without me and you know it. We've gone over everything a thousand times by now."
His chuckle was a good sign. "I appreciate that. It's only… I would feel better if you were here too. I truly believe your voice would sway more people over to our side of things."
It was nice to worry about simple things like running late to meetings and whether or not they could convince the higher-ups to grant more funding to up and coming policing techniques and technologies. Padme hadn't felt so at ease and content with her life in…Well, ever. It felt like sinking into a hot relaxing bath in comparison to a year ago.
"I'll be there soon, I promise. I've just got to drop by Sola's and then I'll be on the way. She's only a block away from here."
"Alright, alright." He laughed quietly, "listen, there's something I want to speak with you about after the meeting. N- nothing bad, don't worry."
At this, Padme's breath hitched. There'd been silly whispers at the office about Bail developing a bit of a crush on her since her transfer but she'd always waved them off with a laugh. But recently, Mon had come to Padme's desk smiling like the cat that got the cream and whispered all about how their colleague had asked for tips on asking her out. Bail was a wonderful man, someone she respected and liked greatly but… She wasn't ready. And he most certainly wasn't ready for someone like her.
She was scarred, emotionally and physically, from everything last year had thrown at her. Every so often she suffered terrible anxiety and the nightmares still came no matter what she did. Padme had a lot of healing inside to do before she could even consider something like dating. And sometimes, all that was the least of her worries.
"Okay…" She spoke barely above a whisper. It wasn't going to be easy to find a way to let Bail down without hurting his feelings or threatening their professional relationship. His friendship and support was something Padme valued immensely after all. "Listen, I have to go, but I'll see you soon. Bye."
She ended the call and dropped the phone back into her purse just in time for the second barista to call her name signalling that her drink was ready. It was silly, but simple things like hearing other people call her name, her real name brought a small smile to her lips. Every time was a little more confirmation that it was really all over. She was free.
Taking the coffee, Padme made her way outside the crowded shop, thanking the man who held the door open for her as she did so. The air outside was cool and refreshing compared to the warm sun. It was the kind of day that made her long for her childhood home by the lake where she and Sola would spend the day swimming and lazing on the grassy bank. Yes, she was running terribly late but her therapist had recently told her to enjoy the little moments, to truly drink them in for her own wellbeing and Padme was doing her best to do so.
"Let yourself heal, Padme. Not as an agent and not as Amidala, but as you."
Seeing a therapist had been Obi-wan's idea at first and Padme had been reluctant at first, only scheduling the first appointment when her boss had so kindly informed her it was mandatory for undercover agents. She'd realised just how badly she'd needed to talk about everything through with someone outside of the situation. It'd been painstakingly difficult at first as she'd relived the horrors of her time in the Clovis estate, the grief of losing Dorme and Ahsoka, her loss of identity and self-worth… They'd gone through everything session by session until slowly, she'd begun to find the strength to stitch herself back together again. After her month of mandatory sessions had finished, Padme had immediately scheduled weekly follow-ups for the foreseeable future. Now, a full year later, life was finally regaining something close to normality.
A small sound drew her attention back to reality with a content sigh. Padme looked down at the stroller before her and came around it to look down at the two children carefully strapped in. The moment they saw her each twin's little face broke out into beautiful little smiles and it inspired one of her own. Sinking down to a crouch she reached out and stroked her palm over her son's soft blonde hair before repeating the soft touch to her daughter's dark curls.
"My little miracles." Padme smiled. That they most certainly were. How these two had managed to survive everything she'd endured at the hands of Clovis in the estate was incredible. In her darkest moments, she'd been sure they were lost, that she'd been too weak to keep them safe from danger. But here they were… Her precious little Luke and Leia. If it hadn't been for them, she wasn't sure she would have found the strength to pull herself together after waking up in the hospital. They were Padme's light, her reason to keep on.
Leaning forward, she pressed a small kiss to both her children's foreheads and stood up straight again to begin moving. The moment was over and she really needed to get a move on and drop the twins off at Sola's.
It was late by the time Padme left work that day, almost , and she was very thankful Sola had offered to keep the twins overnight. Maybe she might actually be able to scrape a full night's sleep for once… Maybe…
Somehow, she'd managed to avoid being alone with Bail all day which probably wasn't the best or most mature course of action but she just wasn't ready to face his question yet. Maybe tomorrow, if she could manage to steal a proper night's rest she might be more prepared… Well, she would have to face it sooner than later, unfortunately.
When she'd first transferred over to this city, Padme had fallen into the expensive habit of hopping into cabs everywhere. At first, it'd been about safety. Rotta Hutt had many resources and wanted her blood. Even in a new city, she hadn't felt free to walk the streets. After the residual fear finally faded, the habit had shifted and become about her struggles as a single mother taking care of twin infants on her own. It was so much more difficult than she'd anticipated and for the span of several months, Padme hadn't been on time for anything.
Now, life felt like it'd all finally come together and she could enjoy the luxury of a simple walk home.
She walked a few blocks until a poorly illuminated sign reading "Tatooine's Finest" caught her eye. Even from across the street the place looked run down and dingy… The type of place the people she'd tried so hard to escape would frequent for fun. Definitely somewhere Padme should avoid at all costs. And yet still… She suddenly wanted to go. Why? She had wine and other drinks at home where she'd be safe, it would be stupid to waste the money not to mention someone who knew the wrong person might recognise her. But on the other hand, she didn't get out enough these days. Her social life had boiled down to weekly sessions of mommy and me classes for the twins and occasional sit downs with her sister.
Padme missed being around people. Even if they were just getting on with their own lives around her.
One glass. She could have one glass of wine and go home. The itch would be scratched and that would be the end of it, right?
Glancing both ways, the former agent scurried across the road and ducked inside the building as quickly as possible. It was dark but that was to be expected in a place like this, the carpets had clearly once been red but were stained with substances Padme couldn't bear to think about as she stepped over them, the stools along the bar were lined with matching leather and the place absolutely reeked of smoke. In short, it was a dump.
She stepped further inside and held her coat just a little tighter over her body. It was good to be here… Her therapist had told her to push herself out of her comfort zones every now and again. Still, Padme's heart raced just a little too much for her comfort as she approached the bar and slid onto one of the stools. One drink. One small drink and she could go.
The bartender was busy serving another customer so Padme drummed her fingernails against the bar to distract herself from her flaring anxiety. Taking a deep breath, she looked at the colourful collection of alcohol bottles on the bartender's shelf and noticed herself in the mirror behind them. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea? Maybe going home would be for the –
Padme's unsettled gaze landed on a figure in the mirror just a few stools down and she froze. No…No, it couldn't be! It wasn't possible. She'd moved away, out of the city where no one from the underworld could ever find her again! But – but he was here, nursing a drink and lost in thought just three stools and two bodies away. Seeing him was like seeing someone from another lifetime. He was a memory Padme almost wished she could erase…
Suddenly, the two people beside her stood and walked toward the exit together sharing a laugh as if they knew the situation they were leaving her to. She should get up and follow them whilst he was distracted. Then this would be nothing but a bad dream and life could move on as if he hadn't smashed through her new normality. It would be easy and safer. Any sane person would run for their lives.
"Anakin?" His name choked its way out of her throat rebelliously.
His drink had been halfway to his mouth when she'd spoken and he froze, stiffening at the sound of her voice. A second later, he set the drink back down, untouched, and slowly turned to face her.
"Padme," was all he said. She couldn't believe this was really happening. He looked exactly how she remembered him and it was startling. The last time they'd seen each other was in Clovis' estate when he'd chosen Rotta over her and vanished. Now, here he was and a thousand thoughts flew through her mind at once.
He betrayed her.
He left her.
She had his babies.
He didn't know.
Should she tell him?
The last thought was startling and distressing in itself. One half of Padme supposed he had a right to know but the other wanted to keep Luke and Leia safe and away from his job. Her heart still hurt from Anakin picking Rotta and the criminal life over whatever it was they'd shared and she'd rather die than let her children ever feel the same way. And yet the words were on the tip of her tongue, longing to see his reaction and share her accidental secret.
As she tried to formulate something to say, the Hutt bodyguard's eyes trailed the length of Padme's body. "You look good – well, I mean. Healthy."
"I am." She breathed. Well enough at least. "What – what are you doing here?"
Anakin fidgeted with his drink and she noticed a new tattoo on his left forearm where the long sleeves of his crisp white dress shirt had been rolled up. A ferocious male lion wearing a grand crown looked back at Padme as she stared. He caught her gaze and sighed. "It's Rotta's – new head of the family needs a new symbol of loyalty. There are five points on the crown, see?" His finger traced the points of the crown the lion wore. "They stand for obedience, sacrifice, honour, love and respect…"
She wanted to snort and roll her eyes. Love? Love? What did he know about love? Or honour for that matter? He'd had a chance to see Rotta face justice for all the suffering his family had caused and chose to escape with the Hutt heir – where was the honour in that? Seething, Padme forced herself to look away and nodded. "How long are you here?"
Anakin tugged his sleeve back down over the tattoo. "Just a day or two. Rotta needed some things checked up on." He gave a dry, mirthless chuckle then, "you going to arrest me, agent Naberrie?"
He eyed her from the side almost as if he felt nervous about her answer but Padme knew him better than that… Or at least, that was what she might have thought a year ago when she'd been lost in their pretend world of peace in his little apartment. How could she have been so deluded?
"I might have… If I still had my badge."
She felt his stare for a few moments but the will to meet his eye was gone. She'd thought that she was better, that she'd moved past the worst of the pain but how wrong she'd been. Her heart ached like he'd just bolted from that office in Clovis' estate tonight and not a year ago. Get a grip, Padme!
"I'd heard you'd transferred here, y'know." Anakin breathed, "Rotta charged me with finding you… He wanted revenge. Only took me a week to find out you were here."
Panic clenched tight in Padme's stomach and suddenly she felt sick. "Wh – what?" Rotta knew where she was? Oh god, what if he came after her? Or – or worse, what if he found out about Luke and Leia and did something to them? No. No! She had to get out of here and get her children somewhere safe before –
"I didn't tell him." Suddenly, Anakin's fingers clasped her wrist and the jolt of his touch forced her eyes up to meet his, wide and frightened. "I promise, Padme, I'm making sure he never finds out about you."
She shouldn't trust him. She couldn't trust him. If she was smart, Padme would get up and go fetch Luke and Leia from Sola's and go somewhere safe, far away from where Anakin or his boss could ever find them again. But, his bright blue eyes radiated sincerity and what almost seemed like concern. Her mind didn't want to believe him but her silly, traitorous heart? It accepted his words without question.
"Why should I believe you? Anakin, I have responsibilities now – people I want to keep safe." Padme tugged her wrist free and he let her without comment.
"New work friends, huh?" He had the audacity to roll his eyes.
If only he knew…
"Don't talk to me that way." She grit her teeth.
Despite her annoyance, Anakin's admission stung. He'd known where she was… It wouldn't have been difficult to see her, to explain himself… They could have… Luke and Leia might have met him, known him. But he didn't. He'd known where she was and hadn't sought her out.
If Anakin was aware of her growing turmoil he didn't show it, casually producing his wallet and pulling out a ten-dollar bill and setting it down onto the bar. "I should go." He announced. "There's things that I – "
Padme heard her own voice leave her lips before she'd even decided to speak. He couldn't just leave her without giving her some answers. The former special agent drew in a deep breath and braced herself. Wanting answers and actually getting them were two different things… If she was being honest with herself, Padme was afraid. What if she was just throwing herself right back to square one of her recovery? Baring herself to him like this, asking the questions she'd been asking herself ever since she woke up in that hospital bed a year ago hurting and confused and completely and utterly alone, it was like giving him the power to break her heart all over again. And yet, this could be her only chance to know, to understand why Anakin had done what he'd done, why the life he'd seemed to hate so much had been more appealing in those last moments than the quiet little dream they'd shared.
She took a deep breath.
"Why?" The quiet word made the Hutt bodyguard freeze where he sat. "Anakin, I don't understand! I – I wanted to – I needed to talk to you and you just left me! You chose Rotta and left with him! Why?" That was the start of three hundred and sixty days of questions Padme had for him. Was it because of her? Because of who she was? How had he found out about her? How long had he known? Was he afraid she'd arrest him?
A year ago, Padme would have understood the tensing of Anakin's shoulders and the little crease between his eyebrows almost as deeply as she understood her own body language but not now. She didn't know him anymore. She never really had known him; the reality was still as painful now as it had been last year.
He couldn't meet her eyes as he spoke, "I… I thought it would be for the best if I kept away."
"For the best?" Padme whispered, "For who? It certainly wasn't the best for me! Anakin, after everything we went through together… Everything that happened, I thought – you would think you'd have known me better than that."
At last, their eyes met and guilt swirled inside the azure hues she'd so stupidly fallen in love with. The eyes he shared with their son, her constant reminder of his betrayal. "It wasn't… I stayed away because of me, Padme. It wasn't about you."
This gave the former agent pause. "What?" She gaped at him.
Behind the counter, the bartender faced away from them, polishing a glass with a white rag slowly before setting it down and replacing it with another from the tray. He could hear everything they were saying, something that hadn't occurred to her before. A year ago, his presence would have made her wary, she would have watched him and avoided as if her life depended on it. And it would have if he'd been another of Clovis' goons; everything he'd done to her after her recapture had proven that.
His face softened suddenly and she loathed the swell in her heart at the sight. It wasn't fair, he didn't just get to look at her tenderly like that and make her heart stutter like it used to. He left her behind! He'd had a choice between Rotta and her and he'd chosen Rotta.
"I risked it all for you, Padme." Anakin whispered, "my position… All my work… And I would have risked more for you. If I'd come back to see you again…" His lips twisted, "Everything I've done – everything I've worked for all these years would have been ruined."
She frowned, shaking her head. That didn't make any sense. "What does that even mean?"
Anakin glanced at the man behind the counter and then around the bar before meeting Padme's eye again. "I don't exactly think this is the time or place to – "
"I don't care!" Padme snapped, interrupting him sharply. Maybe it was dangerous for him to be overheard but right now she didn't care who was around. He wasn't slithering out of this again. "You abandoned me. You vanished with the heir to the Hutt empire and I haven't heard a word from you in a year. If we don't have this conversation now, I have no doubt you'll slip away again, so yes, this is the time and place to speak."
"Fine." Anakin huffed. "Can we at least go somewhere less…" His suspicious eyes cast a glance around the bar again, sizing up each patron where they sat, "public?"
At that, Padme relaxed slightly. He wasn't running away again. "My apartment isn't far from here, will that work?"
He sighed, sounding resigned. "Alright, lead the way."
She stood up and made her way toward the door and tried to ignore how his reluctance hurt.
As they'd stepped out of the dingy little bar, a cab had appeared and Padme stepped off the edge of the sidewalk to hail it. It wasn't until the yellow door had slammed shut behind her that dread dawned upon her. In the heat of the moment, she'd been desperate to keep him from leaving her again before she could get any real answers that the offer of returning to her home had seemed like a good one. Now, clarity washed over her and she remembered the photographs of Luke and Leia on her walls, their toys around the apartment and general signs of two one-year-olds living with her.
What was she thinking?
Too late to change her mind now, the former agent sat silently as the driver pulled Anakin into a conversation about some big football game on the following night. It was easy to drone them out with panic drumming in her ears. What was she going to do? Maybe he wouldn't notice? Her apartment was clean and well kept; it wasn't as if her children's things had taken over in an overly noticeable way. But she had left their sippy cups by the sink! Ugh.
Maybe she could tell him it all belonged to her nieces? Anakin didn't know anything about Ryoo and Pooja, much less their ages; it would be an easy lie. Any good aunt had pictures of her nieces, right? But she'd told him that Dorme was her sister and he knew what happened to her… Unless he'd already figured out Dorme was her partner by now. Oh, her head was beginning to ache with the strain.
They arrived far too quickly for Padme's liking and her fingers trembled as she unlocked the door. This was it. No turning back now she supposed. There was nothing incriminating in the hallway as she led him inside. The apartment was an open plan design with a combined living room and kitchen with only her breakfast bar separating the two rooms. It was spacious and affordable. Perfect for her and the twins but she'd never had someone other than Sola over before. It was a little frightening.
"Can I get you something?" Padme's voice cracked as she spoke and she kicked Luke's red plastic spaceship behind the breakfast bar as quietly as possible as Anakin's gaze wandered around the living room. It felt awkward and she hated it. When they lived together there'd been an easiness, a comfort in the little routines they created. They'd been comfortable together. She hadn't ever really felt awkward around him. Now… Things were different.
She quickly swept the twin's cups into the sink and leant by it as Anakin turned around to face her. "No, I'm alright, thanks."
Nodding, Padme turned around and reached for the cabinet above the sink. "Okay. I'm having something though." God knew she was probably going to need something strong to get through this. Grabbing a long-stemmed wine glass, she poured herself a generous helping of the deep red liquid. Drink in hand, she led Anakin to the stools at the breakfast bar and sat down, watching as he slid into one opposite her.
"Is that you?" He asked suddenly, gesturing to the wall on Padme's left. Following his gaze, her eyes landed on a silver-framed photograph of Luke and Leia hung up on the wall and her heart leapt into her throat. Oh god, what was she thinking bringing him here? It was so monumentally stupid! Whatever she felt for him then or now, she couldn't… He couldn't find out about Luke and Leia. It was just too dangerous for them to have any connection to the underworld, especially if that connection tied them to Rotta Hutt who very much wanted Padme dead. The reality of it was she that just couldn't trust him. No matter what her stupid heart wanted, Padme had to think of her children first. Luke and Leia's safety was everything to her.
"Yes." She swallowed a gulp of wine.
"Who's the kid?" He asked curiously, still eyeing the photograph and Padme's fingers began to tremble. Why was he so interested in a silly picture? It was one of her favourite pictures of the twins but he had no real connection to it. Not that he knew about anyway.
"Just some neighbour kid I knew when I was a little girl." She gave a half-shrug and sipped at the wine again. "I don't even remember his name anymore."
At that, Anakin's attention was drawn back to her with an inquisitive eyebrow raised. "You don't remember his name and his picture's on the wall?" He rose from the stool and stepped slowly toward the small section of wall the picture was hung up on, eyes lingering on Leia's precious little face for a few moments too long before flicking back to Padme.
"I don't have a lot of happy memories." She muttered truthfully, "I like to keep the few that I have close."
He nodded distantly and looked back at the picture again before returning to the stool, dropping down heavily. Something in his face changed as he looked at her, however. He was colder… Suspicious. His searing gaze reminded Padme suddenly of those tense moments after he'd read the journal she'd kept in Clovis' estate. It made her nervous.
"Have you been okay?" He asked suddenly, "everything here is… You're alright now?" The caring tone that coated his words hurt more than they should have. If he'd cared so much about her wellbeing he wouldn't have vanished out the backdoor of Clovis' office and left her behind.
"I'm okay." She nodded, "or at least, I'm getting there." Padme took yet another sip of her wine and set the glass back down. "It's been a longer process than I thought… I guess I didn't realise just how badly I'd been hurt by everything… Emotionally, that is. I was just so focused on completing my mission and surviving that everything else just got pushed to the side." Her nails tapped anxiously against the glass she held.
Anakin nodded, "like your own wellbeing?"
"Yes." She shifted uncomfortably, "like that."
A tired grimace crossed his face. "I know how that feels." He murmured quietly.
Silence fell between them then and Padme let it stretch on for several minutes. She'd imagined this meeting so many times in her mind over the past year, thought of so many things she wanted to say to him and practised it over and over again until it all just became a jumbled mess of words and confessions.
Why did you leave me, I loved you, I don't understand, we have two babies, I wanted you to pick me, why, why, why… Why?
That's what she needed to know most of all. Everything else, all the hurt and unresolved feelings could be put to rest at last if she understood his motivations. All Padme needed was that one piece of closure to finally close the door on that terrible part of her life forever. She needed it so badly it ached sometimes.
"Anakin," She breathed and waited until his eyes met hers, "why did you save Rotta Hutt?"
There. One year later and she'd finally said it out loud. The release of tension almost made her shoulders sag in relief. Now it was done… Whatever his answer was she could have her closure and that'd be it. Somehow, suddenly the prospect didn't make her feel any better.
He held her gaze for a minute before speaking. "That's… That's complicated. The simple answer is that I need him alive."
Padme shook her head and leaned over the counter by her forearms. That was not a real answer, it was a weak cop out and she deserved the truth! "Why?" She asked, incredulously. What could Anakin possibly need Rotta Hutt alive for? He wasn't one of the man's business contacts, they weren't friends, there was nothing to gain from the man being alive!
"Because otherwise, I'd be out of a job." He muttered flatly.
Padme's eyes widened and she fell backwards into her stool, too shocked to gather words. How – how could he be so casual about it? Maybe he really didn't care at all… With shaking hands, she reached for her glass and downed the last of her wine, letting the dark liquid burn her throat as she swallowed. Slamming the glass back down, the former agent shook her head.
"Really?" She spat, "that's your reason for letting the heir of the Hutt Empire live and continue to hurt people? People like me – people who've done nothing to deserve it!"
Infuriatingly, Anakin's expression didn't waver even in the face of her anger. "Yes." He deadpanned. "I do work for him, remember."
"But you saved me!" Padme pleaded. It had to mean something… Everything that happened, it had to mean something to him too. "If your loyalties are truly with Rotta and the Hutts, why did you risk your job to help me even when you knew I was an agent? For all intents and purposes what's happening between the police and Rotta's clan is a war and he and I are on opposite sides. Why save us both?"
"I don't care about what happens between your people and his people. The fact is; I wanted both of you alive."
"You really want him alive?" She realised suddenly that she'd wanted to hear him recant, to declare that saving Rotta had been a mistake and tell her he wished he hadn't done it. Tears sprung to her eyes as it dawned upon her. She wanted him to be like her, one of the good guys.
"Yes, I do." His words crushed her hope as he pinched at the bridge of his nose, giving a tired sigh.
Despite her despair, his words sparked a deep fury in Padme's chest and she felt her eyes flash. "So what? You're just a leech at Rotta's side looking for money? Power? Is that it? You don't care that the man you're protecting is one of the most evil people alive?"
She desperately wanted him to deny it, to lower his guard for her again and finally let her in. She wanted him to give her… Well, anything really. Anything but this cold mask and façade of aloofness he was presenting.
"Rotta is… He's not Jabba. He can't hold a candle to his father." He gave a slow shrug, "Things are different now. I've traded one boss for a less intimidating version."
"But he's still a Hutt!" Padme shouted back, slamming her hands down onto the counter. "I don't… I don't understand, Anakin!" Please, make me understand. "Why did you start working for such a terrible family? And why are you still so loyal to them? You saw what people like them did to me – you know how they hurt people! What could possibly have happened to you to make you believe they could give you a better future?"
It was Anakin's turn to be quiet now and he stayed that way for quite some time. Finally, he spoke slowly, "working for the Hutts gave me a purpose when I thought I had nothing left. As for my loyalty… Right now, it's necessary."
Padme's chest felt too tight… As if some great invisible hand was squeezing her heart in order to crush it to pieces. This wasn't how she'd thought it would go at all. This confrontation wasn't supposed to break her heart all over again. "So… So what was I?" She whispered. All her anger had faded away, giving way to the pain that fuelled it. Her voice sounded small to her own ears but Padme pressed on regardless. "Was I a means to an end for you, Anakin? A convenient fuck?" She spat the word. Her eyes blurred but she blinked back the tears, determined to remain defiant. "That night after Clovis' party… When you… You helped me and took care of me. Was that just an act too? Did it mean nothing to you?"
Anakin stared at her, seemingly aghast. "Is that what you think?"
Padme stood up and pushed her chair backwards. "What else should I think? I – I know things started poorly between us, neither of us wanted much to do with each other but things changed. By the end, I cared about you, Anakin! I cared about you so much. And you just left me! You disappeared without even saying goodbye!" She turned away from him and faced the wall as the first tear managed to fall. "How could you do that?"
"Padme," his voice sounded strained and it forced her to glance back over her shoulder at him. "I never wanted to hurt you. You don't understand, all I want is for you to be safe and happy." The expression on his face was so genuine and true that it threw her for a moment, shocking her to silence before the tide shifted in her chest, pain returning to anger.
She laughed and it was as cold and harsh and raw as her emotions. "Fuck you." She hissed and turned to face him again.
He seemed taken aback and climbed out of his seat. "What?"
Padme strode towards him then, rounding the table in a few quick steps and shoved him, hard. "I said, fuck you," the last two words dripped with venom. She shoved him again, letting all the anger she'd suppressed for a year finally have its moment.
"Hey! Stop it!" He said, evading her as she made to shove him a third time.
"Why? What are you going to do – lie to me again?" She managed the third shove and he stumbled backwards a few steps, anger sparking in his eyes. Suddenly, he moved so fast it seemed almost reflective, he grabbed her and slammed her back against the wall making something clatter to the ground as he pinned both her wrists in his hand.
Her mind screamed in protest. She hadn't been pinned by anyone since Clovis recaptured her and a wave of nausea crashed through her as the memories flared to life. Still, Padme's body didn't so much as flinch. "Go on then," she hissed, "hit me back. Give me something else to remember you by!" The words tumbled angrily from her lips before Padme could think or stop them.
Anakin blinked. "What're you talking about? I'm not going to – I would never! I meant what I said, Padme, I never wanted to hurt you. If I did it was only to keep you safe."
She scoffed. "Why would you care about my safety?"
His eyes blazed and he bared his teeth. "Why do you think? Because I love you!" Both of them froze, neither of them daring to breathe for a suspended moment. Then, slowly, Anakin released her and stepped backwards. "I love you, Padme" he repeated softly, hanging his head. "I know you probably think I'm lying because I'm not capable but it's the truth…"
Padme's throat was dry as dust and her mind was reeling. "Why…" she faltered, stopped and then tried again. "Why didn't you tell me before? Before you left?"
"Because you might have stayed," He admitted honestly. "And that would have gotten you killed. Rotta knows your face. I've managed to keep him away from you by ensuring he thinks you're just one of Clovis' brothel girls but if you were near me, with me, it'd be impossible to keep you safe. Rotta's paranoid, convinced an assassination attempt is always around the corner. He has other bodyguards now and people to watch us and report back. He would have found you."
She shook her head. "You could have come with me… You could have gotten out. I would have helped you – I still can!"
Anakin looked at her and the pain that shone in his eyes made her heart clench. "I can't leave yet." He looked away for a moment to something on the floor but Padme didn't care to follow his gaze. "Someday I will though. But not until I finish something I started a long time ago."
Padme watched him for a long moment, awed and confused. Who are you, Anakin? The question was on the tip of her tongue because the pieces just weren't adding up in her head. She was missing something, something vital to understanding him properly… It didn't make sense that the person who helped her, the man who loved her was the same man who willingly worked with the Hutt family and singlehandedly ensured their survival. She wanted desperately to fit everything together and finally understand. But she couldn't. She couldn't because she loved him back enough to let him keep his secrets.
"Fine." Padme nodded once and cast her gaze low. It would break her heart but she'd let him go if that was what he needed. It's for the best anyway… "Whatever it is you're doing, I hope it works for you, Anakin… I do."
He didn't answer her or take the silent out she offered. "I answered your questions," he said instead, "now I have a couple of my own." Her eyes snapped upwards to meet his, surprised. What questions could he possibly have for her? Stunned, it was all Padme could do to nod her permission. Anakin's blue eyes flicked from her face and to the floor twice before a small frown creased his features. "Your freckles," he gestured at her face, "were you born with them?"
Padme jolted, startled by his question. If she'd had a million guesses at what he might ask her that would never have occurred to her. Slowly, her fingers came up to touch the prominent freckle on her cheek and nodded. "I – yes… Why?" She couldn't fathom why on earth Anakin would want to know something so unimportant and mundane as that? What possible use was that information to him?
His frown deepened and suddenly he crouched down to the floor. This time, Padme did watch him as he picked up the source of the earlier clattering. Luke and Leia's photograph. Anakin held it and stood back to his full height before meeting her eye. "Because in this picture, you don't have them."
"I guess I was wrong. They must have grown before I remember." She lied quietly, "I don't see why you'd care about something so silly."
Anakin gazed at the picture again and Padme's fingers twitched to tear it out of his hands. "This picture is amazing quality for being so old."
Padme started to sweat. "It's been looked after well. Look, Anakin, what is this about?" Honestly, she didn't want him to leave, she wasn't nearly ready to say goodbye but he was getting too close to the truth about Luke and Leia. He had to go… Now. "I'm sure you don't really care about the quality of my childhood photographs and I have to work in the morning."
The hint to go was there but Anakin wasn't looking at her anymore and when she followed his eye, she doubted he was even listening to her. He'd spotted the twin's pink and blue plastic sippy cups in the sink. Her heart began to pound in her chest, thundering so loudly it was a miracle he didn't hear it and see her panic.
"You usually drink out of sippy cups?" He quirked an eyebrow at her and Padme forced a laugh out of her throat. It was high pitched and breathless.
"Oh, no… My little nieces spent the night yesterday."
At that, his gaze hardened and he bolted too quickly for Padme to have anticipated, moving toward the other side of her apartment where the two doors that led to her bedroom and the twins' nursery stood. Oh god, oh no. Oh god. In a second she was right behind him, grabbing at the back of his sleeve. "Excuse me? What do you think you're doing?"
He didn't answer and threw open the first door, it swung and whacked off the inside wall with the force of it. Beside Padme's bed was a telltale, unmissable double cot she'd painstakingly painted pale yellow for hours before the twins were born. It was only still there in case of bad night emergencies, both Luke and Leia were more than happy to sleep in their bedroom next door most nights. Anakin looked at the cradle and then back at Padme, eyes blazing.
"You…" He could barely muster words, "Padme, you had a kid?"
"No." She crossed her arms over her chest defiantly. Maybe there was still a way out of this? She could say that was here for when Ryoo and Pooja stayed over! Yes! It was theirs from last night and Sola just hadn't taken it with her this morning! "It's my nieces' crib. My sister –"
Anakin's gaze travelled from the crib to the photo frame in his hand. "You had a kid…" He whispered to himself slowly and then a moment later his head snapped up to meet her eyes. He took a step toward her, "… Is it mine?" His words were a low whisper and if she didn't know any better, Padme might have thought he was afraid.
"No." She couldn't look him in the eye as she lied. It hurt too badly. Every inch of her trembled though she tried to hide it. This couldn't be happening! It couldn't. She should never have invited him here! She should have gone straight home after work and none of this would be happening. What had she been thinking? She'd put her children in danger because of her own selfish need for closure. They had to leave. They had to go somewhere else and start again where Anakin couldn't find them to lead Rotta here – even unintentionally! He'd said himself his boss has people watching him.
At that, Anakin's face crumpled and he cupped her shoulder in his hand. "Clovis'?"
Padme's eyes widened in horror and she recoiled from him instantly. "What – no! Absolutely not!" The very idea that her precious, innocent children could have come from that monster was disgusting. The thought disgusted her.
"So then what?" His arms gestured furiously toward her, "if it's not mine and it's not his, then…" Padme's heart ached at the flash of pain that crossed his handsome face, "then who? What, you had some boyfriend waiting for you to come back from your cover?"
There it was… An easy out to the situation. If she'd had someone on the other side waiting for her return it would have been easy to conceive the twins after a reunion. She hadn't been very far along when everything had imploded with Clovis and Jabba so faking a non-existent father would be easy. It was the best choice, no; it was her only choice if she wanted to keep Luke and Leia safe. This was the best outcome Padme could have hoped for. And yet, as she met Anakin's pained eyes and felt her own burn with tears in return, she wondered why it hurt so badly.
Anakin wasn't expecting her to say yes, Padme could tell by the way his face fell as she nodded. "I… His name is Palo." Her voice cracked, "we separated when I took on the cover role but when I got back…" She wrapped her arms around herself tightly, "things were different."
He nodded and turned away, resting one palm on the edge of Luke and Leia's crib. "Palo…" He repeated quietly, "you must have been glad to see him again."
This wasn't supposed to hurt so badly. Protecting her children should be something instinctual, easy and thoughtless… This felt like a knife straight through her heart. No matter how badly Anakin's abandonment had hurt her, Padme had never wanted to hurt him in return, not ever. Especially like this, knowing he'd fallen in love with her too and telling him her heart belonged elsewhere and always had. She wanted to tell him the truth, to plead with him to turn his life around and come away with her and raise their children.
But what was the point? Anakin had made his choice a year ago and now Padme had made her own. She was going to stick to it.
"I was." She whispered. "We're happy together – the four of us."
Anakin looked back down to the photograph in his hand for a moment before meeting her eyes. "Twins?"
Padme nodded. "Yes." Maybe it was wrong, maybe from his perspective it was twisting the knife she'd just put into his chest but suddenly all she wanted to do was tell him about their babies. She needed him to know about them… Even if he didn't know they were his. "Luke and Leia. They're so happy and creative and I can't take my eyes off them for even a second or they'll be doing something nefarious." She'd always thought they got that from him. "They're the best things in my life."
"I, uh," he swiped his hand across his cheek quickly, hiding a tear she wished she never saw. "I'm glad you're happy, Padme… You deserve that."
So do you, she wanted to say but didn't. "Thank you." She said as Anakin stepped around her, making to leave and she shook her head. No, he couldn't go yet… She wasn't ready to say goodbye to him, not now, not ever. Why did it have to be this way? "Anakin!" Padme cried his name and took a half-step toward him. When he left, she'd probably never see him again. He'd go back to his underworld life protecting Rotta and she would carry on as normal. There was no crossover, no link to one another that he or anyone else knew. "You said that you'll leave Rotta and that life someday."
He looked at her blankly. "Yeah, I did."
Padme nodded and stepped forward again placing a trembling palm over his heart and felt it pound inside his chest. "To someday then," she said and then leaned up to kiss him. It was a soft kiss, more a brushing of lips but she could feel the passion, the want, desire and pain behind it. She could feel it from the way he groaned, the way he buried his fingers in her hair tightly and held her close. Padme opened her mouth, still gentle and her arms wound around his neck in an effort to get closer. The solid wall of muscle she met when she arched into him felt like home. Anakin gave another quiet groan and his hands slipped down her rib cage and landed on her hips, pulling her into himself, his fingers clutching at her almost desperately.
For a few moments, they stayed just like that, each holding the other, lost in the simple ache of being almost close enough to bridge the space between them. Anakin was the one to break away first, resting his forehead against hers, unwilling to separate himself more than absolutely necessary. "Someday," he repeated, the word sounding simultaneously heavy with promise and bleak with grief as he said it.
Padme held on to him for another moment, knowing all too well that as soon as she let him go he would leave. For one beautiful moment, she thought about telling him that she loved him too but it passed as quickly as it came. She did love him. She loved him so much… But she had to let him go. For the sake of the twins, she could never have him. Reluctantly, Padme unwound her arms from his neck, her hands slid down over his shoulders and chest, and then she did it.
She let him go.
Their eyes met for an eternal moment before Anakin nodded once, a silent goodbye, and walked out of Padme's apartment. She watched him leave, heard the door shut softly behind him and felt her lip tremble. So, that was it then. They'd both made their choices and whatever they'd had was over. It was for the best and she knew it but that didn't stop her legs from carrying her to the door or her hand from hovering over the handle. It would be so easy to run out of the door and catch up to him and try to convince him that they should make it work no matter the odds against them. She'd tell him there was no Palo and the twins were his children too.
In just a few seconds, Padme imagined a hundred happy endings for them where they were together and free. In some of them, they were partners working to take down Rotta and his empire once and for all, in others, they ran away together with their children and carved out their own little lives somewhere safe. Somewhere they could grow old and wrinkled in a simple, mundane life together, happy and content with their family.
In all of her imaginings, they were happy.
Padme pressed her forehead against the door and closed her eyes for a long moment.
Don't look back.
She turned the deadbolt and locked the door.
He hadn't looked at this in a very long time.
The fancy, no doubt expensive, blade with pretty carvings and a silver hilt turned in Anakin's hands slowly as he looked over every inch of it. He felt the weight of the weapon in his hands as the moonlight gleamed off the reflective metal. It was a beautiful thing. Some people out there probably collected things like this – it might even be worth something if he bothered to look into it. Not that the thought had ever really occurred to him before. This blade always had another purpose in the secret agent's eyes, one more personal than money; it always had ever since he stole it from the evidence locker.
It'd been years since that day but Anakin could still remember it as if it were today.
He'd been pretty nervous walking in, worried about losing his job but told himself it wasn't really stealing since it was his mother's name on the label stuck to the bag the knife was stored in. In any way that actually mattered, that bag with the knife belonged to him. It was his right to have it.
Suddenly, tonight, the blade felt heavier than it ever had before. The personification of his life's work to avenge his mother's murder, the reason he'd given up everything he had was wrapped up in the knife. This was his reason, his purpose for continuing on. Originally, it'd been for Jabba because he was the reason… He was the one who'd let it happen… And he'd killed him for it. Yes, it'd also been about keeping Padme alive but in that moment, those precious seconds before he'd pulled the trigger the only thing Anakin had seen was the fear on his mother's face before she was killed.
So he'd pulled the trigger.
All this time, he'd expected that to be it, his revenge completed, his mission finished… He'd thought it would be freeing. But it hadn't. It wasn't enough to see Jabba dead. He wanted them all dead, everyone with the surname Hutt. He wanted their empire in ashes and their lives ruined forever.
And he still did want it.
Anakin thought back to his meeting with Jabba to plan his attack on Rush Clovis' estate, how appalling the slaughter had sounded to him… How was he any better? He shut his eyes tightly and leant his forearms on the cold black iron of the bridge he currently stood on and sighed. The truth was he wasn't any better… Hadn't been for a long time. This life had dirtied him and his soul and Anakin wasn't sure it'd ever be clean again. He wasn't like Padme, his cover was never just police work, he didn't want to bring down the Hutts for the greater good. It'd been personal from the start. Even after Jabba was dead, he didn't know how to let go.
Opening his eyes, Anakin watched the current pull the river forward and into the night, saw his own blurred reflection inside of it and exhaled shakily. "I'm sorry, mom…" He whispered into the silence. "I – I got so caught up in getting revenge… I think I've lost the person you wanted me to be." His eyes looked at the blade in his hands again for a moment. "I miss you. So much." It'd been a long time since Anakin could recall the sound of Shmi's voice or the feel of her arms around him. His thumb traced over the cold metal of the blade. "I still want to avenge you… I want to tear them all to pieces even if that's not what you would have wanted. I know it's wrong."
Sometimes, in the dead of night, Anakin let his mind wander back to his mother. Would she even recognise the person he'd become? Would she like it? He didn't think so. The little boy Shmi Skywalker knew had been smothered a long time ago. He drowned in the blood Anakin had spilled in her name.
It'd been three months since he saw Padme and he'd felt the passing of each day far more than he had the days that made up the year he'd kept away from her. That was because things were different now. He just hadn't known it before.
The Hutt bodyguard reached into his pocket and pulled out the photograph of Padme's twin children with his free hand. He probably shouldn't have taken it, he knew that, but he needed something of them… Anything. He wasn't stupid. Maybe there was another man, maybe there wasn't but those were his kids. The little boy – Luke, Padme had said his name was – had his eyes and hair but it was the little cluster of freckles on the spot where his neck met shoulder that'd given it away. Anakin had the same thing. And the girl, Leia, she was his mother's image. It'd startled him at first but more nights than not Anakin fell asleep staring at the image of the children.
He didn't blame Padme for hiding them from him. Who would want a man like him as a father? He was a killer and he'd chosen revenge over his love for her… And if he'd known about the babies, he would have chosen revenge over them too.
The thought made him shudder.
Padme and his kids deserved better, Anakin was glad she'd realised that. It'd made him realise it too.
He'd realised something else too.
Don't look back.
He'd been using his mother's words as a mantra without understanding their true meaning. It wasn't about the past; it was about the future and looking forward to what was both here and to come. His mother would be disappointed in him but then again, Anakin had always known that. But he could change things; he was going to change things. Tonight was step one.
Anakin's eyes looked down at the blade and the picture of Luke and Leia and felt a cold breeze against his face. Meeting Padme again had put him at a crossroads and it was time to pick his path. The moment passed and the bittersweet knowledge of what he had to do dawned upon him.
He slid the photograph back inside his pocket and pulled out the small burner phone that lived there instead. He kept it closer now after everything that happened, rather safe than sorry again. Flipping it open, his fingers tapped at the old buttons without prompting and dialled the only number saved into the device.
It rang three times.
"Obi-wan," Anakin spoke before the other man could, "I want out."
The words felt like freedom and poison on his lips both at once. He wasn't sure which was more bitter. Slowly, Anakin held out his hand with the blade still firmly in his grasp and thought of his mother, of Shmi and then he thought about Padme.
He let the weapon slip from his grasp, painful as it was, and fall to the murky waters below. It sank into the blackness and in just blink of an eye… It was gone. Anakin's knees felt weak. His legs trembled... He watched the river carry on without a hint of the new secret it hid in its depth.
It was over.
A flock of birds flew overhead, the only other witness to the death of Anakin's purpose. A few moments later, he slapped the burner phone shut as Obi-wan ended the call with a promise to meet him at the station and pushed both his hands into his coat pockets. A strange weight lifted from his shoulders, one he'd become so accustomed to carrying, it felt bizarre to be free of it. Was it wrong that part of him missed it?
Anakin glanced back at the river one last time. "I'm sorry, mom," he said again. "I know I'm not the man you wanted me to be… But from on, I'm gonna try to make you proud, I promise."
With that, he turned away from the bridge and started toward the direction of the station, thoughts focused on the future.
A/N: Please review and let me know what you think!